Cheapest Day To Book Flights

In all the discussions about how to get cheap airline tickets, an idea keeps resurfacing that certain days of the week are cheaper for booking flights than others. The most common candidate for cheapest day of the week is Wednesday. Turns out that’s true – and not true. Statistically, it’s true; on the average, flights in North America on Wednesday are cheaper than other days of the week.

Why that happens involves the demand for airline tickets each day of the week, and also how easy or hard it is for the airline to book flights so that they manage to fill up all of the available seats, or as close to it as possible. This is more complicated than it sounds, though, because most airline tickets purchased are round-trip rather than one-way.

If you want to travel to New York or Los Angeles or Miami or Seattle (or wherever) to visit your aging parents on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary, you don’t just book one flight to that destination, you also book one coming back home on a different day. So each ticket purchased for travel on any particular day of the week implies another ticket purchased for travel some days later.

On a per-day basis, the lowest demand is for travel on Saturday. Although Saturday is a pretty common flying-out day (or so one would assume), it’s not as desirable for the return trip. Flying back on a Sunday gives one more day to spend with Mom and Dad, or your long-distance lover, or the beaches of Acapulco, or the sights of Paris.

The days with the highest demand for airline tickets are Thursday and Friday, and those are also the days with the highest prices, on average. Despite Saturday being the day with the lowest demand, it isn’t the cheapest day to book a flight. The cheapest day, statistically, is Wednesday, just as popular wisdom suggests.

On average, then, the way to get the cheapest air fare would be to fly out on a Wednesday, spend a full week, and fly back the following Wednesday.

The trouble with this idea is that you don’t fly on the average, you fly on particular days, and while this rule of thumb is statistically valid it isn’t going to hold true in every specific instance. Sometimes you’ll be able to find a discounted fare for a flight some other day of the week that beats the available fare on Wednesday. There’s no substitute for doing your homework.

While the day of the week does have an impact on the price of an airline ticket, it’s not as great an effect as when you want to fly during the year. The calendar year has several “dead zones,” times when not as many people are traveling and rates are accordingly low.

These include the first two weeks of December (after Thanksgiving, before Christmas), the month of January (after the holidays), and the spring and fall, except for the academic spring break when lots of college students are clogging the airways.

For flights to Europe, a slightly different calculus applies as far as seasons are concerned. Winter is the cheapest time to fly to Europe, while summer is the most expensive time.

Spring and fall are in between. Winter can also be one of the best times to travel to Europe, especially if you’re looking for a skiing experience or are visiting a sunny and hot place like Italy, Spain, or the south of France.

The general rule of thumb for finding the cheapest times to fly, whether you’re considering the week, the year, or the time of day, is to do it when most people don’t. Follow the beat of a different drummer, and not only will you assert your independence of spirit, but you can also save money.